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ALL FIRED UP: Immokalee Fire Station 31 reopens after 5 years

Fox 4's Immokalee Community Correspondent Ella Rhoades checked out Fire Station 31 on Carson Road, which reopened this week for the first time in five and a half years.
IMM FIRE STATION31
Posted at 11:23 PM, Apr 04, 2024

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Sirens now fill Fire Station 31 in Immokalee to inform the crew to get out the door and save lives.

It's a sound this station has not heard in five and a half years.

Firefighter Taylor Brister told her Immokalee Community Correspondent (that's me, Ella Rhoades), "Sometimes the response times from Station 30 are 20 minutes out, and if you're having a like serious medical emergency that can be life or death."

Now, imagine the response time cut in half or less. With Station 31 open on Carson Road, around 10,000 people on the west side of Immokalee will see a quicker response.

The Immokalee Fire District has 3 stations, Station 30 on New Market Road, recently reopened Station 31 on Carson Road and Station 32 in Ave Maria.

Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Cunningham says closing the station in 2018 was a hard call, but it wasn't affordable. A study from June 20223 shows it saved them $100,000.

"By shutting down the station to the fire service we were able to retain all our staff," Cunningham says.

Five years later, IFD says they could afford six new firefighters but need more to keep up with the population growth in Immokalee. They have 36 firefighters, three on an engine at a time.

Now with the station reopened, IFD expects response times to significantly go down, but they don't have that data yet.

Cunningham says, "We can only staff as much as the revenue that we received that we can afford."

Flashback to more than two decades ago, when Deputy Fire Chief Cunningham started his career at Station 31.

"I love this station. It was my station...You go to a coffee shop and see a neon sign is flashing. This is our neon sign. The trucks being here," he describes after the station reopened Monday.

Cars honked as they passed Cunningham to celebrate the station's return.

Firefighter Brister was raised in Immokalee and chose to serve her hometown, "Immokalee's always been my home."

Brister returns the friendly honks to the community as well.

She adds, "Someone who just really needed your help for the day, or they're going through their worst day that they could have imagined it. It makes you feel good."

IFD already has plans to renovate Station 31 in a few years.